The Casual Fan’s Guide To The 2024 US Olympic Track & Field Trials

The 6 Biggest Storyline For The 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Track & Field

One of the greatest track & field meets on Planet Earth takes place starting on Friday in Eugene, Oregon — the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Track & Field. The meet will run through Monday, then take a two-day break before concluding Thurday-Sunday of next week.

What’s at stake? The top three in almost all events will go to the Olympics. Fourth place goes home devastated.

We wrote “almost all” events as unfortunately you have to have the Olympic standard or a high enough World Ranking to go to Paris, something that the vast majority of people capable of finishing in the top 3 have for most but not all of the events. It would be much better if World Athletics — the governing body for track & field — just let the top 3 go no matter what if the US has already qualified three in an event.

Anyway, we know many of you don’t follow track & field full-time like we do so below are the six biggest storylines for the meet, which will be broadcast on NBC, Peacock and USA. After you read this, be sure to share it with your friends so they can get interested in the Trials. And more importantly, be sure to come to each and every day for the most in-depth coverage.

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1) Is Noah Lyles the fastest man and is Sha’Carri Richardson the woman on Planet Earth?

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It can easily be argued that the marquee events of the entire Olympics are the men’s and women’s 100m races. The events market themselves. Who is the fastest man and fastest woman in the world?

An American man hasn’t held that title at the Olympics in 20 years (Justin Gatlin won gold in 2004) and an American woman hasn’t held that title in 28 years (Gail Devers won gold in 1996; Marion Jones’ 2000 gold has been vacated due to doping), but that easily could change in the year 2024. Last year at the World Championships, American Noah Lyles won the men’s 100m gold and American Sha’Carri Richardson won the women’s 100m gold.

Lyles enters the Trials as the top American in 2024 while Richardson is #2 — but the #1 American (and #1 in the world), Jacious Sears of the University of Tennessee, got injured at the end of the NCAA season and didn’t even run the NCAA championships. Lyles and Richardson are two of the biggest stars in all of track & field and both are expected to win the 100m. If they do, both will be favored for Olympic 100m gold as well.

The NBC hype will be intense. Richardson famously won the Trials in 2021 but didn’t get to run in Tokyo as she tested positive for marijuana. Lyles was hyped as Usain Bolt’s successor in 2021 but he had an off year, failing to make the team in the 100 (7th) and had to settle for Olympic bronze in the 200m, where he’s been utterly dominant every other year (winning world gold in 2019, 2022, and 2023).

If Richardson and Lyles don’t win, pay attention to whoever does as America’s fastest man and woman will definitely have a shot at Olympic gold. High school star Christain Miller has run 9.93 (+1.6 wind) and is currently ranked #5 in the world while Fred Kerley won the world 100m title in 2022 but has had some shoe issues recently.

For the women, Ole Miss’ McKenzie Long was the star of the NCAA meet where she captured the 100m 10.82 (+2.2) and 200m (21.83, +1.0) just months after her mother tragically died of a heart attack at age 45.

In the 200s, something has to give on the men’s side as the US has three of the five fastest men in the world in 2024 in Olympic silver medallist Kenny Bednarek (19.67, +1.7), former Texas Tech star Courtney Lindsey (19.71a, -1.5) and Lyles (19.77, -1.6). And that doesn’t include the 5th-fastest man in history in Erriyon Knighton, who ran 19.49 at age 18 in 2022 and will be making his 2024 debut in Eugene.

Long is the women’s world leader in the 200 but Harvard grad Gabby Thomas won Olympic bronze in 2021 and world championship silver in 2023 and Sha’Carri was the bronze medallist at Worlds last year.

Women’s 100m 1st Round: Friday, June 21, 2024,  8:53 pm ET
Women’s 100m Semis: Saturday, June 22, 2024, 9:00 pm ET
Women’s 100m Final: Saturday, June 22, 2024, 10:50 pm ET

Men’s 100m 1st Round: Saturday, June 22, 2024, 9:22 pm ET
Men’s 100m Semis: Sunday, June 23, 2024, 8:48 pm ET
Men’s 100m Final: Sunday, June 23, 2024: 10:49 pm ET

Women’s 200m 1st Round: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 8:51 pm ET
Women’s 200m Semis: Friday, June 28, 2024, 10:06 pm ET
Women’s 200m Final: Saturday, June 29, 2024, 8:27 pm ET

Men’s 200m 1st Round: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 10:33 pm ET
Men’s 200m Semis: Friday, June 28, 2024, 10:28 pm ET
Men’s 200m Final: Saturday, June 29, 2024, 9:49 pm ET

2) Does Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone set yet another world record in Eugene in the 400m hurdles?

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The US only won two individual golds on the track at the last Olympics and both came on the women’s side — Sydney McLaughlin won the 400 hurdles gold in a world record of 51.46 (after setting a world record of 51.90 at the Olympic Trials) and Athing Mu won the 800 in a then-American record of 1:55.21.

Since then, Sydney has gotten married — she goes by Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone now — but her dominance of the hurdles has continued. In 2022, she set a world record of 51.41 in Eugene at the US champs before running another world record of 50.68 at Worlds in Eugene.

In case you are counting, that means Sydney has set four different 400h world records and has run a world record each of the last three times she has raced in Eugene. Can she get WR #5 at the Trials in 2024?

I doubt it, but Trials organizers are hopeful as they’ve scheduled her event to be the last event of the final day.

One other thing about Sydney: it’s a bit disappointing she isn’t going for history and trying to become the first person to win the 400 and 400 hurdles at the Olympics. She’s only entered in the 400 hurdles even though she’s the fastest woman in the world this year in the 400 and #2 in the 200. A historic double (or triple) will have to wait.

Women’s 400h 1st Round: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 9:49 pm ET
Women’s 400h Semis: Saturday, June 29, 2024, 8:41 pm ET
Women’s 400h Final: Sunday, June 30, 2024, 8:29 pm ET

3) How does Athing Mu look in her first race of 2024?

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In 2021, Athing Mu arrived on the world scene like a meteor, winning the NCAA 400m title for Texas A&M in a collegiate record of 49.57 four days after her 19th birthday. Two months later, she won the Olympic 800 title. She repeated in 2022 by winning the world title but didn’t win last year, settling for bronze at Worlds. However, she did rebound and run a personal best, world-leading and American record time of 1:54.97 in her final race of 2023 at the Prefontaine Classic.

She hasn’t raced since. For most, that would be a really bad sign but Mu is probably talented enough to get away with it.

Both Mu and McLaughlin-Levrone are coached by Bobby Kersee, who doesn’t like his stars to race unless everything is perfect and has said he doesn’t want them racing each other. We sure hope at some point in their careers they both end up in the 400 at the same global championship.

Women’s 800 1st Round: Friday, June 21, 2024 7:17 pm ET
Women’s 800 Semis: Sunday, June 23, 2024 9:11 pm ET
Women’s 800 Final: Monday, June 24, 2024  10:32 pm ET

4) How does the men’s 1500 play out?

There’s been an interesting development in men’s distance running in recent years. From 1987 to 2022, an African-born man won 64 straight gold medals in the 1500, steeplechase, 5,000, and 10,000 meters at the World Championships. However, non-African-born men have now won the 1500 (Jake Wightman and Josh Kerr) and 5000 (Jakob Ingebrigtsen x 2) at each of the last two Worlds. That trend could continue in 2024 as Kerr and Ingebrigtsen have to be considered the favorites in Paris.

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Along those lines, the most exciting distance event in the sport right now is the men’s 1500. Ingebrigtsen — the former child prodigy and youngest man to ever break 4:00 in the mile — is the defending Olympic champion but has had to settle for silver at each of the last two Worlds. At the Diamond League final last year, he also almost had to settle for second yet again as he was pushed to the line by American Yared Nuguse with both men running 3:43 in the mile.

Nuguse, who runs for the Boulder-based On Athletics Club, has been in great form in 2024 and enters the Trials as the US favorite. However, as we’ve seen in recent years, a championship 1500 is much different than a rabbitted Diamond League race. Nuguse did win the US championship last year, but is he vulnerable if the race is slow?

If so, Nike’s Cole Hocker, a former Oregon Duck who won the last Trials and then got 6th at the Olympics at age 21, will be hard to discount. This year, he’s already set PRs at 800 (1:45.63), 1k (2:18.26i), and 5000 (12:58.82), run 3:48 in the mile, and earned the silver at World Indoors in the 1500. And adidas’ Hobbs Kessler, who set the US U20 record of 3:34.36 in 2021, also is a strong contender. He won the bronze at World Indoors in March and has run PBs at 800 (1:45.07) and mile this year (3:48.66).

Joe Waskom just ended his NCAA career in style by winning his second 1500 title for Washington. He’s never afraid of the moment and pushed Nuguse last year at USAs. And let’s not forget 2016 Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz. Centrowitz has already announced this is his last year as a pro and his form has been improving. Can he make one last Olympic team?

Unfortunately, even if Centrowitz is top 3, he is one of the athletes that may be screwed over by the convoluted World Athletics qualifying system. He pretty much needs to run the Olympic standard (3:33.50) and be top 3 to guarantee himself a spot on the team (a 3:33.63 and 3rd place showing would move him up into a tie for #45 and they take 45). In the long term, it might be good for the sport if Centrowitz was top 3 and didn’t make the team as it might make World Athletics change its qualifying system so anyone who is top 3 in a legit trials race gets to go if that country is already sending three people. They already allow this in the marathon, so why not also on the track?

Others that can’t be counted out include former Oregon Duck and 2022 US champ Cooper Teare (3:32.16 this year), NAU’s Colin Sahlman (3:33.96), and the Empire Elite’s Eric Holt (3:34.05).

Men’s 1500 1st Round: Friday, June 21, 2024, 8:22 pm ET
Men’s 1500 Semis: Saturday, June 22, 2024, 9:54 pm ET
Men’s 1500 Final: Monday, June 24, 2024, 8:47 pm ET

LRC WTW: Why Are We Obsessed With Jakob Ingebrigtsen, Why Noah Lyles Should Be Worried, & Shericka Jackson > Flo-Jo

5) Can Grant Holloway erase one of the two holes on his CV in his quest for GOAT status?

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Former Florida Gator Grant Holloway, now an adidas athlete, has done an awful lot in his career. After winning three indoor and three outdoor NCAA titles, he’s won the last three world outdoor titles in the 110 hurdles and the last two world indoor titles in the 60 hurdles, an event where he is the world record holder and one where he has never lost in college or the pros.

There are only two things he hasn’t done: set the world record in the 110 hurdles and win the Olympic gold in the 110 hurdles (he got silver in Tokyo, where he was upset by Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment). Holloway’s 12.81 pb, the #2 time in history (the WR is 12.80) was run the semis of the last Olympic Trials so the world record certainly could fall at the 2024 Trials — anytime Holloway races, we are on world record alert.

Men’s 110h 1st Round: Monday, June 24, 2024, 8:05 pm ET
Men’s 110h Semis: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 8:01 pm ET
Men’s 110h Final: Friday, June 28, 2024 10:50 pm ET

6) How do America’s defending champs in the field events look?

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We don’t normally pay too much attention to the field events at but they are always worth paying attention to at the Trials. The US has three athletes who are trying to repeat as Olympic champs in the field events: Katie Moon (née Nageotte) in the women’s pole vault, Valarie Allman in the women’s discus, and Ryan Crouser in the men’s shot.

Both Moon and Crouser have won the last two Worlds as well, but it’s worth pointing out that Crouser, the greatest shot putter in in history, hasn’t competed at all outdoors since winning World Indoors in March. Joe Kovacs, the 2nd-farthest thrower in history and Olympic silver medalist behind Crouser in Rio and Tokyo, could prove to be tough to beat as a result. Crouser’s agent Paul Doyle told me on Tuesday that Crouser “will be competing for sure. He had a pectoralis muscle tear back in April and has a lingering elbow issue since World Indoors but we fully expect him to be healthy enough to compete well at the Trials.”

Two other American field events won world titles in 2023 — Chase Ealey (now Chase Jackson) won the women’s shot and Laulauga Tausaga (now Laulauga Tausaga-Collins) in the women’s discus. And Tara Davis-Woodhall, the world indoor champ in the long jump this year, is a star in the making. Her 7.18m pb from USA indoors this year was the best jump by an American woman in eight years.

*Full Trials schedule

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